Friday, June 29, 2007

Last Week

Monday (6/18) – 10 stripers, 3 shad.

Thursday (6/21) – out with Eric Poreda. A few stripers.

Friday (6/22) PM – with Don Gunster. Four small bluefish.

Monday (6/25) – solo trip. A nice morning: several stipers, including one amazing fighter (35”). Several blues in the mix. Fish were hitting the surface throughout the morning.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Water Like Chocolate

Friday, June 15

I was worried about the wind. On Thursday night it was blowing and I didn’t pay enough attention to the weather because, like a dolt, I read the extended forecast a few days earlier and it was for nice weather. I was nervous because my Friday morning charter was to be predominantly on flies and the wind would louse that up. The wind in the trees usually makes for good sleeping, but not this night. It continued, out of the north, even as I left the boat ramp at 4:30. But then, miraculously, it laid down to 5 – 10 and in an instant my hopes were up.

I picked up Dave and John at the town dock just before 5:00. John was running a few minutes late – he was driving down from his hotel in Boston. From Pennsylvania, John was in town for business and had been up late with Dave at Fenway Park to watch the Sox lose terribly. These guys were tired. We began out of the harbor and as we passed Captain’s Flats the wind became an issue again. The tide was draining out – a minus tide at 6:15 or so. So, between the wind and tide, our options narrowed significantly. But we attempted some open spots first in case the wind was indeed manageable. It wasn’t. Although the fetch of the bay was temporarily reduced by the surrounding sand flats it was making a mess of the lines and frustrating all of us.

We finally opted to find some shade from the north wind and that is hard to do in this bay. Behind Clark’s Island was the nearest choice and we fished it for a while. It was calm along the southern point but as we drifted south the wind and chop would slowly increase. We ran numerous drifts through here and on the second or third one John suddenly had a screaming reel. His flyrod, a nice Loomis, was bent hard and he had to work hard to get this one in. It was a fine keeper sized striper – and fat too. He was happy about this. I was happy about this too. If my memory serves, despite a lifetime of fishing all over the world for all kinds of species, I think this was his first striper.

Dave took the bow next. We repeated the drift several times and soon enough he had one on. The fight lasted only a short time, however, because the fish was small. John took a few photos of Dave with the fish, which made Dave laugh. But it wasn’t ludicrous at all because on days like this it takes a lot of time, patience, and skill to hook up on the fly.

Next we moved to some structure, a little more into the path of the wind (which just got worse). Dave took a few casts with some light spinning gear with a storm shad. Almost instantly he was onto a nice one. The reel screeched a little bit and a smile emerged on his face. The fish was 22” or so and had provided a nice fight.

We tried a few more drifts along this area but had no more luck. I then took the guys into Kingston Bay, to the vicinity of the Jones River where the wind was a bit less intrusive. The water was quite murky and we skunked there. John entertained us with several good stories of fishing in Chile and other locales. But I was preoccupied with finding more fish for these guys. We ended up trying several more areas, including a return to the one spot that proved successful earlier. But by this hour several other fishermen had arrived on the bay and were in the same situation - also seeking out the wind shade below Clark’s. We spent a couple more hours fishing and storytelling. The weather was curious but beautiful; the maritime low out over Nova Scotia was pumping rows of low clouds from north to south, but brilliant sunshine would alternate with the cloud cover every few minutes.

Despite all further efforts no additional fish were hooked. It was a marginal day, but this is fishing. I’ll refrain from quoting that bozo, Forest Gump, but still, you never know what to expect out there.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Good Luck

Tuesday, June 12

It was an interesting morning. Flat calm at first light. First cast and first fish: 33". This was taken on the surface on a homemade jumping minnow – the same one that has been described in many of my posts…I am wondering when it will finally succumb to a broken line or poorly applied knot. My first stop proved to be a good choice. Not only because I landed a beauty on the first cast, but also these guys were going ballistic (out of water) on every other retrieve. Eventually I moved to another spot only a few hundred meters away and within a few casts I landed another keeper at 29". There were a few smaller fish in the mix, but mostly large fish. But the weather changed abruptly and amazingly. Right after landing the first fish the wind went from 0 to 20 out of the NNW and this occurred within a mere 10 seconds. Minutes later the bay was capping. I took a break from fishing to check my lobster pots (7 keepers). Then on the way in I found a big, dense school of hickory shad and had some fun with them for a half hour before heading in. Driving to CT this morning with a cooler of fish and lobsters.

Man Gets Morning Shower From Fleeing Fish

Saturday 6/9

Early up and out. I almost bagged out thinking that the wind and fog might not work out well. But Joel, who crashed out on the futon, was fired up. So we went out. It was a bit misty but calm. The tide was still rising for a 6:15 high which meant that we could have some action for an hour, then it might slack off at high tide for a little while. But the action was fairly consistent throughout the morning. The usual spots around Saquish and the Bug produced some nice explosions on the surface and we also had luck on rubber shads and Fin-S lures. No keepers landed but a couple were hooked and subsequently lost. One fish grabbed my surface plug just a few feet from the boat, turned, and B-lined out and away at a tremendous speed, sending an explosion of water everywhere. This one was big too. I only enjoyed the fight for 10 seconds as the hook was not well placed. The event entertained Joel thoroughly of course, and I am sure his voice was heard in Snug Harbor.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Afternoon Drifting

Friday, Part II

By 11:30 we were back on the water. First some aquaculture work, then checking and baiting the pots (with the morning’s racks), and ultimately some fishing. Friday afternoon resembled a typical weekend out there. The weather was prime and lots of folks took the afternoon off to take advantage of the day. Alex, Joel, and I fished a few of our favorite spots and the action was cyclical. Almost immediately Joel hooked a keeper over some eelgrass meadows. This made him quite happy. Eventually we rolled into a school of small bass with hickory shad mixed in. These were in skinny water along some of the sand flats. We changed over to small lures (yellow wiggle tails) to enhance our chances of landing a shad. Within minutes Joel had one on. These shad are acrobats and they often cartwheel out of the water on the both the hookup and the retrieve. Joel’s fish, about 20 inches long, leapt out of the water right next to us but Joel’s attempt to cowboy the fish into the boat failed as the fish shook the hook and dropped freely into the bay. We continued finding fish here and there for a couple of hours and eventually, after frustratingly failing to snag even one of the ubiquitous menhaden, we went in. We breaded and fried up a softshell green crab that was collected from one of the pots – it was great. Striper was on the dinner menu and fishing tomorrow’s first light was on the calendar.

Wrong Spot?

Friday, Part I.

On Thursday night I shucked oysters at a small party and on the return trip Cappa told me he had plans to fish with Donnie in the morning. “Yeah man, I’m meeting him at the ramp at 4:45,” he said. I was tired and the thought of an early rise didn’t appeal to me at the time. But when I hit the sack I set the alarm for 4:30 just in case. I woke at four and couldn’t sleep. So I went out.

It was as nice morning. I was a rosy sunrise with enough clouds along the east to keep the first bite going a little longer. The water was calm. I was early and feeling good and relaxed about that. My first spot lasted all morning. Within a couple of minutes some large fish began exploding at my custom jumping minnow (Joel’s Cherry Popper). And soon the first keeper of the day was landed on this magical lure: a 32 incher. By the way, the dog was with me on this trip and he was happy until this fish, which was larger than he, arrived and immediately outranked him. I continued to fish the same drift and continued to catch nice ones. The second keeper (29) was produced on a gray and white Fin-S. At this point the fish were best hooked by dropping several feet into the water column and surface plugs were only marginally successful.

When the sun broke the clouds I looked east and thought I saw Donnie and Cappa. Having a phone on me, I rang up Donnie and indeed, that was them out near Clark’s Island. “Dude, nothing all morning…how you doing?” asked Donnie. “Come over to where I am – there are tons of fish here!” I exclaimed to him, indicating which boat was I. Soon Donnie and Cappa were among me, my companions, and a school of midsized bass which were on the top.

But something happened. The fish almost immediately vanished and didn’t return. Hmmn. I felt bad for the guys – they had skunked so far. We chatted for a bit, then I decided to head in on the early side – last day of school for the kids and I didn’t want to miss the morning’s excitement. So, in I went. Plans were already in the works for a midday stint of fishing with Alex and Joel.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Solo (with dog)

Sat/Sun June 2nd and 3rd, 2007

It’s time for lobsters and on Saturday I prepared a few of my pots for deployment. The day was hot but quite muggy so the paint on the buoys took some time to dry. Regardless, I geared up three pots and told everyone I had to put them out while the going was good. So I did this and it was fun. I tossed them pretty much in the same place I did last year – a resulting 25 lobsters on 3 pots last summer made it worthwhile. This year I’ll be setting closer to 10 pots, but I doubt I’ll acquire 250 lobsters…maybe.

But the story is about fishing. On my return home I decided to try a few spots that typically held fish throughout the summer months. But this weekend was the first typical summer weekend with lots of pleasure boaters speeding through the best fishing areas. Of course, no one can blame people for cruising around in their boats. But these activities don’t mix well with fishing. Or so I thought. I was sure that my luck would be poor. But upon setting up on a drift over a spot that would produce big fish in the early morning hours, I soon discovered that the fish were there and were eager to chase and hit my Yo Zuri swimmer. Boats intermittently sped by at alarmingly close ranges, but the fish were there and striking my lures quite diligently. I landed a couple of feisty 26” bass before a couple of boats became curious and swarmed the area. This made me decide to move on. So I did, to my next spot, which yielded the same. The thing is that there were some big fish on many of the follows. They were cautious this afternoon and were more apt to follow than strike. But they revealed themselves quite clearly, and I reckoned that we might now be into a pattern of good sized (into the 40s”) fish. We’ll see.

On Sunday the weather forecast did not look good: a series of thunderstorms to precede the arrival of the remnants of tropical storm Barry. Monday was to be crap-on-a-stick. I told everyone that I’d better check the pots as I wouldn’t be on the water for a couple of soggy days. Permission granted. I took the dog, Oliver, and we departed Howlands only to find some hints of fish along one of my favorite stretches. The incoming tide and north wind played into my drift plan and within a minute or so of positioning time, I was into them. First cast produced a fish of about 25 inches. Then another. But my drift was swift and I had to reposition quickly. I was the only boat out there and I am sure this was due to the weather. The wind was picking up and rain was increasing in its consistency. My second drift was full of surprise. I was rigged with a dark 6” Fin-S but changed over to Joel’s “cherry popper”. This was a good move because the result was a spectacular series of retrieves that consisted of close to a dozen large stripers charging and striking the plug. With sighs of frustration, I could not manage a decent hookup. Lots of these fish were well into their 30s (length) if not 40s. But they were not able to set the hook. (I had removed the forward treble – makes life easier for everyone).

Then a familiar boat joined up to the area. It was Reb. I’ve known Reb for about a month. He lives at the outermost house on Goose Point (Standish) where I’ve been digging steamers. Each day he’d walk out and say hello and perhaps we’d share a story or two. His boat, a dark green V-hulled aluminum, has menacing eyes painted on its bow in the fashion of a corsair fighter plane. I’ve forgotten the name of the boat, but Reb told me and it is a long name….the Charles Emerson Winchester III, or similar. I was glad to see Reb out there with me along this drift. I had trouble seeing whether he was hooking up on anything, but he continued moving up, drifting down, and moving up again.

But I was about to go crazy. The fish were all over and there were big ones in there. They were quite aggressive too. I should have had several in the boat already. However, the plug, as popular as it was, could not hook into any of the fish. Finally, I focused a bit more keenly on my retrieve and then did I get the reward of a 30” on the line. I landed him without any problems and continued on for a spell. Oliver the dog was nervous about the fish and began pacing about. But overall he kept his cool.

The wind picked up even more and I had not even checked the pots yet. I decided, quite wisely, to move on and pull the pots and get home. The ride to them was into the wind and waves and I worried about my fuel supply. Upon arrival I found them devoid of lobsters yet full of spider and sand crabs. The sand crabs, also known as rock crabs and pinky-toes, are good eating so I collected about a dozen good sized ones and released everyone else. Back home we went – a striper and a dozen crabs. The storm continued its approach and within an hour of returning home the bay was socked in pea soup fog.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Here We Are Again

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

I thought I’d be the first one there, but Donnie was already creeping around the shoreline and came out of nowhere with the coffee he promised me. His energy level was high and I could tell we were in for some gut busting over the next couple of hours. Eric was also early, so we got on the water ahead of schedule and followed the outgoing tide to the Bug Light to assess the morning’s situation. It was a cool, calm morning. The fish, however, were not in their usual placement or numbers. We drifted over some areas that were historical hot spots but these produced only a few small guys. But as the sun rose the action turned on and we were amidst a good sized school.

A number of boats arrived which produced a kind of conveyor system around these schools: set up the drift, run through it, then get back in line behind the others. Some guys don’t do this, but rather they fish the bottom of the drift and continually motor back up to the edge. This is less efficient and usually, depending on the number of boats out there, tangles things up and increases the likelihood of spooking the fish.

Anyway, we did this for a while and had some nice hookups. Surface poppers, swimmers, and rubber shads all worked well. After some time the fish thinned out and rather than chase them around the bay we all agreed to try some shallow eelgrass meadows that held some nice rips. So we did, and it worked well. The tide had changed and was now flooding the bay with first the dirty, unmixed ebb water, then the clear, cool offshore water. We drifted past some small rips and found the spot that held them and ran several passes which resulted in a bunch of ballistic popper-chasing events. Some of the follows and misses were big ones – I saw a couple of 35to 40” bass approach the boat but was not lucky enough to actually hook any of these.

The temperature warmed significantly as we moved along the shoals and many comments to that effect were heard. But time was marching on and we all had to get to work at some point, and as such, we started in toward the landing. And of course, we saw more fish on the way in. In fact, there was a large blitz of surface action along Captains Flats and plenty of room for another boat or two to get in on the game there. So we did, and it worked well. These were mainly small fish; however, it was almost every cast that the rod would bend and “Oh, yeah!” would emit from Donnie’s cakehole. It was here that Eric made up for some poor luck earlier in the morning and Donnie peaked with his trademark antics that cracked us up and probably, unfortunately, made us the loudest boat out there for a few minutes. But there’s nothing wrong with that.

We were just a few minutes behind schedule when we returned to shore. All safe.